Rural house fires in Tennessee and Indiana killed 15 members of two families, and most of the victims were children, officials said.
In Evensville, six children and three adults from an extended family died on the second floor of a two-story house where they were sleeping early Saturday, officials said. The only survivor, 19-year-old Joseph Alexander, had been on the first floor when he awoke in the smoke and escaped through a window.
“I woke up, seen smoke,” Alexander told Chattanooga’s WTVC-TV. “I thought it was a dream. I heard my cousin yell, got up, tried to go upstairs — couldn’t.
“After that I just started breathing in all kinds of smoke. I jumped out the window because the doors were on fire.”
Some of the victims were staying at the house temporarily as they prepared to move, Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal said. The six children ranged in age from 17 to 1.
'I knew there was no hope'
In southwestern Indiana, the charred bodies of a couple and their four children were found early Saturday in the smoldering remains of their home.
Stanley Montgomery, 70, said his son and his family had called him Friday night after returning from a trip to Missouri. Hours later he heard about the fire and ran to his son’s home in Shoals, about 90 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
He realized all six had perished when the garage walls collapsed and he saw the family’s two cars still parked inside.
“When I knew they were in there,” Montgomery said, “I knew there was no hope.”
A relative identified them as Rodney Montgomery, 41; his wife, Beth, 35; and their children, Austin, 11; Ariana, 9; Trenton, 6; and Jackson, 6 months.
The fire appears to have originated near a wood-burning stove, Franklin said. Foul play wasn’t suspected in either fire.